There’s been a gruesome pull to watching the week-by-week audio stream totals in the US during the Covid-19 pandemic: fretting about the dip in streams in the early weeks of the global crisis, then welcoming their return to growth – while nervously wondering how many people might be thinking of cancelling their paid music subscriptions to cut costs.
Nielsen Music / MRC Data, which provides that weekly data, has now stepped back for a wider view of 2020 so far for music consumption in the US, with its mid-year report. The good news: on-demand audio streams have grown by 16.2% year-on-year to 419.8bn in the first half of 2020.
The report makes it clear that Covid-19 had an impact though. Those streams were up by 20.4% in the period up until 12 March, but the year-on-year growth was 13.8% over the rest of the first half of 2020 – leading to the 16.2% average for the six-month period. Total audio consumption – a metric that covers streams and sales in the US – grew by 9.4%.
The report tracks some other trends from the first half of 2020, including the impact of the #BlackLivesMatters protests; how Fortnite, TikTok and Instagram’s Verzuz battles spiked audio streams; and the fact that the fastest-growing genre in terms of its audio streams is… country music.
That genre’s audio streams grew by 21.2% year-on-year in the first half of 2020, although its share of total on-demand audio streams is still only 7.6% – fourth behind pop (13.5%), rock (16.3%) and R&B/hip-hop (30.8%).